Most people that have heard about DIR/Floortime® probably think about getting down on the floor and playing with your child. But there is more to Floortime in the DIR/Floortime® model and it needs to be implemented properly to be effective.
That is, he might need to throw to stay regulated, which is the first and most necessary functional emotional developmental capacity. We have to respect this sensory need and figure out a way to fulfill this need–a need that is on par with hunger or sleep for children like ours. Suppressing it is not the answer.
Occupational therapist and DIR/Floortime® Expert Provider and Training Leader Maude LeRoux gives an excellent example of joining a child who seems incapable of interacting.
One of her clients simply laid on the ground with a string. The parents said he never interacted. So Maude laid beside him and watched. Eventually she held up a string and imitated one action the child did.
The child was curious and looked. Next, she added one more piece, then another, until the child changed his movements to see how she would imitate them.
It was a great Floortime session in which the child felt safe enough to interact with Maude and she made him feel safe by not forcing anything or even saying any words.
Another important part of the Floortime session is tailoring our interactions to the child’s developmental level. (Recall the functional emotional developmental capacities from a few weeks ago). Note that Maude did not ask the child questions or even use words, which are higher developmental capacities. She started at the first capacity, bringing the child into a shared world, then engaged the child, and eventually got a back-and-forth non-verbal interaction.
Floortime not only involves tailoring what we do to the child’s individual differences and developmental level, but we also want to be aware of our own strengths and weaknesses.
If we take the child’s rejection personally it might prevent us from being able to be respectful because we might turn demanding of their attention, for instance.
If our natural state is very calm and the child is under-responsive, we might find it hard to engage them with the high energy necessary to entice him/her into an interaction. If our natural state is very loud or energetic and the child is over-responsive, we might find it hard to engage the child without over-stimulating him/her.
The key is to remember that every child wants to interact and be together.
Finally, we need to reflect after each session to ask ourselves what went well and what we will do differently next time. “There is no rush in Floortime” Dr. Greenspan said.
We always want to challenge the child to relate, think, and communicate.
What’s great about Floortime is that you can do it anywhere at any time. You are simply trying to get the child to relate to you.
You are not having grand immediate goals with Floortime. The development will happen over time as you get the child to relate more and more.
Over the coming months, there will be video examples of how to do all of these things discussed above. Next week we will talk about Floortime as a Family Approach and how family dynamics can help or hinder Floortime.
Until next week, here’s to affecting autism!